Cherries are small stone fruit that grow in clusters on trees. Two main varieties include the small, pale red tart cherry and the round, slightly heart-shaped, deep red variety, which is deliciously sweet when ripe.
Selection and storage
Cherries do not ripen after picking, so buy them ready-to-eat with green stems that signal freshness. Pale red cherries are suited for cooking, preserving or baking. Best picks for eating have a glossy deep red colour with a firm, plump feel to them and should be eaten within one to two days. Cherries perish quickly and bruise easily so refrigerate them right away, loosely in a shallow container. Keeping them cold also helps to preserve their vitamin C content.
Cherries are flavourful snacks at about 90 calories for 20 cherries. They are a good source of vitamin C (important for healthy gums) and an immune booster with antioxidant properties. Anthocyanins are plant compounds in cherries that give them their deep red colour and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; these may play a role in heart health by decreasing fatty buildup in arteries. Like many fruit, cherries are a good source of fibre and potassium. Have them fresh while you can because cherries don't freeze well and the canning process significantly cuts the nutrient value of these little gems. Folklore recommends cherries to prevent and treat gout, but this has not been scientifically supported.
At 10 calories apiece, maraschino cherries are the sweet variety that have been bleached, processed with lime juice or calcium salt, treated with food colouring, sugar and almond flavouring, then bottled. Commonly used for baking or to garnish alcoholic beverages, they offer much less nutrition than their fresh counterpart, but offer a festive appeal to dishes and desserts.
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